If you are a WordPress user, you know that you can track how many visitors you get from each country, which is pretty cool. I know that a lot of IP addresses get routed through various countries automatically, depending on where servers are located, but I also know that a good many of these visitors are actually from the country indicated. These are my country stats since the end of February, when WordPress started keeping track of this stuff. It looks pretty neat, so I thought you might like to see it, too. And thanks for visiting!
Make sure you take the time to nominate your favourite Canadian blogs for the Canadian Blog Awards. Maybe nominate me, too, even if I’m not your favourite. Just follow that link and then the instructions to leave your nomination in the comments section of the post.
Keep an eye out in the coming months for your chance to vote for the blog you think is best, and I will make sure to remind you as well (I came in third last year, so maybe we can get more votes going this time around, eh?). Feel free to follow them on Facebook to get regular updates.
I usually cringe at airing dirty laundry (even if it’s not my own) in public, but this really takes the cake and has pretty much sucked a bunch of joy out of my summer. So I will say this now, and for the record, that if you ever decide to buy a new mattress, never, ever purchase one from Nasafoam. I will tell you the story here, because I’m feeling really, really vindictive right now. Sorry about that.
You may recall me mentioning that the Pie and I had purchased a new memory foam mattress through a Groupon Deal. It was $500 for a $1700 mattress, and as broke students, that struck us as a really good deal (you can see it here). The question was, did they deliver to Newfoundland? Many companies don’t, so I posted the question on Groupon’s FAQ page and received a response that to ship to Newfoundland would be $225. You can see the posting here. You will also note, for a later point I will make, that nowhere in the fine print does it say it does not ship to Newfoundland.
Anyway, we were happy with that shipping price so we bought the Groupon and submitted it to Nasafoam. We typed in our information, everything, and then pressed the “submit” button. Normally when you order something online you get some form of record of your transaction, whether it’s something you can print or something that is emailed to you later as a confirmation that you actually bought the thing. Several days later I’d received nothing like that, save the “Thank you. Your information has been submitted” that we saw after clicking the button.
So I emailed Nasafoam and asked for confirmation that I had actually submitted the order and asked for an ETA on delivery, as well as a final cost with taxes included. I was told simply that “delivery will contact you with final cost.” At that point, I left it at that.
A couple of weeks went by and I started to wonder when my mattress would arrive, so I emailed again, and was told that it would arrive in 2-3 weeks from the date of that email. That sounded good. I started making preparations to renovate my office and all that jazz in preparation for my houseguests.
Five weeks after the date of that email I still had no mattress, and I was starting to get a little cheesed. So I wrote to Nasafoam and told them that I was cheesed, and demanded a final bill and a shipping estimate. I got no response. I emailed twice more with no results. Then the Pie discovered that Nasafoam had a Facebook page. On the page they were telling Groupon customers that the wait for a mattress was 4-6 weeks and at this point I was onto almost nine. I posted this on Facebook and Nasafoam informed me that they had not been receiving my emails. I have kept every one of their automated receipt emails so I know that is not true and told them so. Eventually I sent another, slightly angrier email to every email address at Nasafoam I could find.
The response was unsurprisingly disappointing. One email response told me that my order would be shipped in 4-6 weeks, which of course indicated to me that the person I had emailed my message to had not actually read it. I responded of course that it had been nine weeks and received simply a “I see that! Thanks!” answer to that. The other response I received was a very frosty one saying, essentially, that they had told me delivery would contact me and that they had no control over when their delivery company would deliver any of their products.
Think about that for a moment. A company has no control over the delivery of its goods? What kind of crap company is that?
And of course there was no acknowledgement that I was upset (which I mentioned in a very polite way, of course), nor any final bill (which I had requested for probably the fourth time).
The next week I filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. I felt really good about this.
Nasafoam comes back with the response that I haven’t paid my final bill and that’s why they haven’t shipped.
I respond with the fact that they have not sent me a final bill.
They respond again to tell me I haven’t paid my final bill. Which they have sent to my email address, so they say. Which of course they haven’t.
I may have turned into Godzilla at one point in this process. Also I know I definitely growled out “HULK SMASH” a few times as well.
Rather than smash my head into the wall at the ridiculousness of this situation (and I’m in Portland at this time, mind you, so I’m using my dad in St. John’s as proxy while I try to type out all this nonsense on my smartphone), I suggest that my father call them with my credit card number and we can sort this out.
He calls. The guy who answers, according to my dad, is an idiot. He tells my father that I apparently filled out the form wrong, and put in Nova Scotia as my mailing address instead of Newfoundland. He had the form right in front of him, he said (which is nice for him. I never got a copy of my order form). I’d like to point out here that I have been working in the legal world for almost a decade and as such am an extremely conscientious form-filler-outer. I do not make mistakes like that. I double-check everything. And the Pie was sitting next to me as I filled it out. He also double-checks. And, as I pointed out to Nasafoam, Nova Scotia postal codes start with B, while mine in Newfoundland starts with an A, and I sure as heck didn’t mess that one up.
Their response? ”Groupon is aware that we do not ship to Newfoundland.”
Really? Could have fooled me. I sent them a photo of the Groupon FAQ page where I asked them the shipping cost to Newfoundland. Their response to that was just that I had made a mistake and should have been aware all along that they do not ship to Newfoundland.
And it just went on and on, response and rebuttal through the BBB where they simply ignored everything I said and made me look like the bad guy. I pointed out their contradictions and blatant lies and they told me I was an idiot (or at least that’s how it felt to me). The final verdict from the BBB was that Nasafoam was standing by their decision (to do nothing) and that they (BBB) were sorry that I was unhappy. At least the BBB apologized. I’m in negotiations with Groupon right now to get my money back, and they’re being remarkably helpful, if a little slow, which has kind of renewed my faith in business.
When we returned to St. John’s, the Pie took a screen capture of the Groupon FAQ page where they give me the shipping quote for St. John’s and juxtaposed it next to the section of the BBB complaint where they tell me that I was “well aware it was for nova scotia only” (what? It was an Ottawa Groupon!) and posted it to Nasafoam’s Facebook page with a short paragraph about how not only did Nasafoam make us wait double the shipping time to receive our order but they lied to us and didn’t ship it to us at all.
Nasafoam deleted the comment and graphic the next day and closed their page to further posts.
Long story short, the Pie and I ended up sleeping on the floor while my parents were in town so that they could have our crappy old mattress. The day after we returned to St. John’s we went to the lovely people at Cohen’s, and, for $600, purchased a similar memory foam mattress. Add in $50 for delivery and they brought it right into our bedroom just a scant week later. That’s it in that picture up there. Isn’t it pretty?
Sorry for the venting here, folks, but I really hate it when people lie to me, especially when it’s a local Canadian business. If you’re curious to know more about the crap that Nasafoam has put me through, send me a message and I can forward you our long and convoluted correspondence, together with the BBB complaint form (as I said, I keep meticulous records). And if you’ve had a similar experience with some company who refuses to acknowledge any wrong doing, please feel free to rant in the comments below. I’m ready and willing to listen.
Happy International Women’s Day everyone!
Today is my birthday — specifically, it’s my thirtieth birthday, which is a milestone in every woman’s life. As the Pie likes to point out continuously, I’m no longer a twentysomething. I’m now a thirtysomething. When he turns 30 in four months I will be sure to rub it in, don’t worry.
My mother tells me that women only really come into their own when they turn 30. Thirty is when women begin to become powerful and strong. I think it’s a good way to approach this milestone.
On the morning of my twentieth birthday, I sat on the floor of Doodle’s dorm room and I wrote myself a letter, taking my future self to task for all the things I hoped to accomplish in the next ten years. I still have the letter, and today, once I get up the courage to do so, I’m going to read it. I am pretty confident that I’ve succeeded in most of my tasks. I know my past self wanted a PhD by 30, but will just have to be satisfied with a doctorate by 31 instead.
Anyway, in honour of my very important birthday, I thought I would be self-indulgent today and let you in on thirty very important things (in no particular order) that I have learned over the past thirty years.
1. It doesn’t cost anything to be polite.
2. Flossing is not just for wienies. It saves you money on dentist bills.
3. Confidence is extremely attractive.
4. Don’t sweat the small stuff (coming from someone with OCD, this is a pretty tall order).
5. Do your best, or else don’t bother.
6. A work-life balance is important. They won’t fire you for not working overtime.
7. Always pee before you leave. You never know when you’ll get another opportunity.
8. Fibre is more important than you think.
9. Not everything has to be done right now.
10. Simple food made from scratch is the best.
11. Your age and your weight are just numbers. Be happy with being healthy.
12. We inevitably turn into our parents. Just make sure to turn into the best parts.
13. Corgis are awesome dogs. And it’s not just me and the Pie saying that.
14. You can have four best friends. It’s okay.
15. Your partner/spouse should be one of those best friends.
16. People in the service industry have feelings, too. Treat them with respect.
17. Stupid hobbies are only stupid to other people. If you like doing it, keep doing it.
18. If you haven’t worn it or displayed it or used it in over a year, you’re probably not going to. Get rid of it.
19. Never be afraid to either ask for help or to relinquish control. It may be hard, but it won’t make you look bad.
20. When you bend over in pants, people should not be able to see either your butt or the colour of your underwear.
21. In food photography, obey the rule of thirds and use natural lighting.
22. Always wear shoes you can run in if necessary.
23. Don’t buy stuff you can’t pay for right away.
24. Try to learn something new every day so that you can teach someone else.
25. In the winter you are allowed to sacrifice fashion for warmth.
26. The Green Revolution is not a trend. Please recycle.
27. “Water-resistant” does not mean “water-proof.” Especially in Newfoundland.
28. The internet knows a lot of things, but not everything.
29. Procrastination is fine as long as it’s productive.
30. It is the smallest details that you appreciate the most: sunlight on a wooden floor, the curve of a smile, a perfect cupcake. A day on the beach. Take it all in.
And if today is also your birthday, happy birthday to you too!
I only just noticed this now, but I made the shortlist for the Canadian Blog Awards!
Please take a second and vote me in for “Best Blog about Art, Crafts, Cooking, and Other Creative Activities” or “Best Food and Drink Blog”.
You can see the full list of nominees here.
Today’s DIY post will be delayed until noon to honour Remembrance Day.
This was actually a project that Cait came up with as a guest post eons ago. Obviously, she took too long to do it, I got impatient, and now I’m going to go ahead and do it myself. Because that’s what I do. I do it myself. It’s kind of the point of this here blog.
The City of St. John’s has just this past year instituted a city-wide curbside recycling program. Yes, we are about twenty years behind the times on this one, but we’re making progress. What the city does not recycle, however, is glass. I’m not entirely sure I understand why, but that’s the way it is. We previously employed a private recycling plant that would take absolutely everything, including glass, but they of course disappeared once recycling became free. As a result we’ve now started tailoring our grocery shopping to buying items that come in cans and plastic containers, rather than glass. But some of that stuff sticks around. I re-use glass jars as much as I can, especially when it comes to the contents of my spice cabinet. Even so, we still have a lot of glass that goes in the garbage. And let me tell you, for a girl who has spent the last 25 years of her life recycling, it feels some weird, b’y, to chuck glass in the trash.
So how can we re-use it some more? You can only deal with so many spare bottles and jars lying around. Their function is practical but limited. So let’s create some other sorts of vessels from these things by learning to cut glass.
I purchased Ephrem’s Deluxe Bottle Cutting Kit from Artistry In Glass, based in London, Ontario, for you Canadian shoppers.
This kit has been around, pretty much unaltered, since the seventies. In fact I don’t think they’ve ever bothered to change the photographs in the little projects book that comes with it. But why mess with something that works so well, right?
You need some glass for this project. Anything that is round, really, with smooth sides will work for you. Bottles, jars. You name it. The reason I bought the “deluxe” kit as opposed to the regular kit is because it comes with an adapter so you can work on the curved parts of bottle necks and stuff, instead of just the straight sides. But I haven’t gotten to that skill level yet.
In any case, you’ll need to clean and dry your glass thoroughly first. This means soaking off the labels and rinsing the containers out well. If you can’t get some of the glue off the glass, try peanut butter. It works really well, I promise.
So now I’m all set. With my little kit at the ready, I wanted to make sure I did this right.
I watched the video about how to do it the way the cutting kit company tells you to in the instructions, with a candle and an ice cube.
And then I watched another video about a slightly easier and more efficient way to do it with boiling and cold water. I will show you both.
This is the result of my first attempt to cut beer bottles. As you can see, it’s not perfect, but it’s not bad, either. I needed more practice. You are not going to succeed at this on your first try either, so make sure you have lots of practice glass around before you start getting into the stuff you actually want to use.
Beer bottles are the best to practice on, because generally beer is cheaper than the more expensive wines that come in the nice bottles. Plus you can get several tries in if you buy a six-pack. The other bonus of practicing on beer bottles is beer glass is thinner and more prone to shattering (unlike jars of preserves, beer is cold-canned, and the bottles are not designed for temperature shock). So because the bottles break easier, you have to be more careful in your practice.
Scoring the Glass:
So this is how you do it.
The kit has all sorts of knobs and screws that you need to adjust first so the cutter is perpendicular to the cutting surface. This is important. Follow the directions and diagrams in the kit carefully.
Now, exerting firm, even pressure (you don’t have to press very hard either) and without stopping, roll the bottle or jar under your hands. You will hear the cutter making horrible gravelly noises as you do this. It is scoring the glass. Keep going all the way around, until you hear a distinct click. This is you hitting your original score mark. Now you can stop. Don’t score over the same spot twice.
If you don’t hit your original score mark, then you’ve messed up that particular cut. I do this often. I guess the pressure from my hands is uneven or something so the cutter and the bottle don’t stay where they are supposed to. This is where the practice comes in. Also make sure all your screws are tightened all the way so stuff doesn’t shift.
Once you’ve got your cut, you can start shocking the glass. We want to do this slowly and evenly.
Water Shocking Method:
I put a towel in the bottom of my sink, just to provide a bit of a cushion should some glass happen to drop. It will also catch the hundreds of tiny flakes of glass that fall off your bottles, so make sure to wash it thoroughly afterwards.
I have one jug of water in the fridge, the other boiling away on the stove.
Starting with boiling water, slowly pour a small stream over your score mark. Turn the bottle so you get all sides of it. Keep going until you can feel the bottle warm in your hands.
Now, pour on the cold water in the same way. You’ll start to hear some cracking — that’s the glass breaking along its score line.
Keep going, alternating boiling and cold water. There will be more cracking. Don’t try to force the two parts of your bottle apart. If they’re going to come apart they will do so on their own. Just keep alternating your water and it will eventually happen.
You can see here how I etched lines in parallel rings on this jar.
And then this is how it fell apart.
They didn’t fall apart completely evenly, but as I was only seeing if cutting multiple lines at once was even possible (as the book and the ‘net both tell you to do them one at a time), I wasn’t paying that much attention to my scoring.
Fire and Ice Method:
For argument’s sake, I also did the candle method as espoused by the kit itself.
Carefully hold the bottle just above a candle flame, so the flame nearly touches your score mark. Rotate the bottle slowly to evenly heat all the way around.
When the bottle is heated, take an ice cube to the score lines and rub it all the way around.
You will find that you have to do more repetitions for this method, but it’s slightly more accurate. Because the bottle is more gently treated your cuts will open straighter more times than not.
Of course, if you’re cutting rings, like I was here, the fire and ice method is very slow, as you have to do each ring individually. The water shock method is much better for cutting rings, but I would use the fire and ice method for the lips of drinking glasses and the like, where a completely straight edge is important.
When you have finally achieved an edge on glass that you like, you will need to grind down the edges, because this is broken glass — it’s super sharp.
The kit comes with this silicon carbide powder, which you can pour on a sheet of glass that you don’t need to use for anything else, add a drop of water, and rub away until all the sharp edges on the glass are gone.
It’s a little messy though. I prefer emery cloth, which is basically fine sandpaper, just the silicon carbide powder is glued to a sheet of paper. You can still add a few drops of water to it (this keeps the glass dust down), and grind away!
Make sure to get the inside edges as well as the outside edge.
You can always dip a small piece of paper in water and sand down the inside by hand.
So my first successful efforts of today produced this lovely wee glass.
Which I filled with juice. And which I plan to later etch and give to someone.
And these rings, which I will be making into another gift for someone else. They’re not perfect, but they’re not bad.
Stay tuned for some gift ideas and things you can do with your upcycled cut-glass projects!
One of my colleagues, the Multilinguist, is off in Vega doing research. She has requested I whip up a feature month of Canadian food so she can impress her research participants, and it’s a challenge I have happily accepted.
And what a challenge it will be! Canada is a country of vast natural resources, which include lots of fantastic things to eat. It’s also a country of immigrants, which means that much of what we eat is flavoured by influences from other countries.
That said, I can’t do this without your help — what stands out in your mind as being distinctly Canadian cuisine? I’d like to take a culinary journey across all Canada’s provinces and territories, but I just don’t know enough about all of them do it alone. Not to mention that many dishes from many provinces (like the prairies, the territories, or the forever intertwined-and-annoyed-about-it Ontario/Quebec) tend to blend into each other in terms of available foodstuffs. Your suggestions will be most helpful.
Is there a place you visited/lived/read about that had something tasty to offer? What kinds of food do you think about when (if) you think about Canada?
I’m looking for main courses, desserts, beverages — anything you can come up with.
Here’s my opening salvo into this Canadian menu. I’m really just spitballing here. We’ll start out west, then zig-zag north and south as we work our way east, shall we?
CANADIANA — ON MY PLATE:
Smoked salmon on cedar planking. Nanaimo bars for dessert.
BC has a large number of residents of Asian descent, so maybe smoked salmon sushi?
I also remember driving past a number of llama farms there as a child. I wonder what llama tastes like?
All that comes to mind here is Robert W. Service’s The Cremation of Sam McGee, which is not particularly helpful, I know. But what did the gold-diggers eat (aside from their sled dogs)?
From a little bit of research I see that the Yukon has a thriving wheat growers’ association. Perhaps some hearty hearth bread?
Caribou stands out as a traditional food here. In fact, you can see all the useful bits of a caribou and other local fauna here. I’m pretty sure I can get caribou in St. John’s, if I do some looking around.
Bannock is also another possibility, or a wild berry tart.
Alberta beef is a dear, dear thing to us. It’s not something readily available to me in Newfoundland, but I can probably make some substitutions. Alberta also produces a large number of elk and other large livestock.
Most of the recipes coming up here involve home-grown grains, like rice, barley, and lentils. Lots of pilafs and stews.
They (and all the other prairie provinces) also grow a hardy little berry called the saskatoon. I am pretty certain I can’t find that this far east.
Because Nunavut is Canada’s newest territory (c. 1999), it’s gotten a lot of press in the past decade and so it’s all over the internet. Nunavut recipes involve caribou, arctic char, and seal. Please don’t ask me to cook seal. It is such a strong, oily meat. I’ll try anything twice, and seal has already reached its limit in my tummy.
A quirky adaptation is the Nunavut bar, a modification of the Nanaimo bar with a snow-white centre.
I really know nothing at all about prairie cooking. I’m pulling all this stuff off the internet. Pork, poulty, and mushrooms seem popular here. Please fill me in if you know anything different.
This massive conglomerate has the same sort of food availability as the prairies. You can get good Ontario produce all throughout the summer and fantastic Quebec cheese from tiny hamlets all across the province. Having lived on the Ontario/Quebec border for a long time, I’m a little muzzy on who “owns” what kinds of food, but I’m definitely thinking poutine, which originated in the Ottawa-Gatineau area, as well as the ubiquitous beavertail pastries you can pick up on the banks of the Rideau Canal.
Like the other Atlantic provinces, New Brunswick cuisine features glorious amounts of seafood. Man do I love seafood. And New Brunswickers can do their seafood with an Acadian twist, which makes their dishes just a little bit different from the rest of the ocean provinces.
All that’s running through my head is lobster lobster lobster lobster apple crumble lobster lobster blueberry picking lobster lobster lobster. Though I do remember cooking an egg on the sidewalk in Lunenburg when I was little. And the fact that lemon meringue pie is considered a maritime staple, despite the fact that lemons don’t grow on the east coast.
Prince Edward Island
Despite being Canada’s smallest province, PEI is BIG on potatoes. I can definitely work with that.
Newfoundland and Labrador
We’ll finish off our tour at home, which will be a little bit less of a challenge. Starting a blog while living here has made me a bit more conscious of what’s going on, food-wise, than I had been about the other places I lived. Aside from the usual seafood and the absolutely vile seal-flipper pie (as I said, don’t ask me to cook seal, I won’t do it), there’s a bunch of scoffs (that’s Newfoundland English for a meal) around here with local flavour. Fish ‘n’ brewis, scrunchions, any form of salted meat, moose pizza, toutons, and not to mention famous Newfoundland berries such as partridgeberries, blueberries, and bakeapples. I’m sure I can arrange something outta that.
basically what we have to work with here are a wide variety of grains, fish, shellfish, livestock, berries, and fruits. How can we make them Canadian?